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Engineer Mountain Out and Back

Difficult
 4.6 (10) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

An iconic mountain in the San Juans with gorgeous 360-degree views.


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Map Key

6.9

Miles

11.1

KM

75%

Runnable

12,955' 3,949 m

High

10,702' 3,262 m

Low

2,310' 704 m

Up

2,311' 704 m

Down

13%

Avg Grade (7°)

88%

Max Grade (41°)

Dogs Unknown

Features Fall Colors · Views · Wildflowers

Avy danger in the winter is significant in the San Juans, including Coalbank Pass, so please be careful.

Overview

You can see Engineer Mountain from certain areas in Durango, and this iconic peak dominates the skyline around Coalbank Pass. This is a classic scramble in beautiful country. After a pleasant jaunt through the forest you can scramble, climb, and crawl your way up Engineer Mountain.

Need to Know

On weekends the Coalbank parking lot gets busy. It's best to leave early and have the added bonus of trail solitude.

Runner Notes

I know we all know it, but especially going down when it is busy, uphill hikers have the right of way. Please be aware of the folks going up.

For those wanting some extra mileage, once you get back to the junction in the meadow you can stay on the Engineer Mountain Trail and head south off of Coalbank and a trail will take you to Cascade Creek which is at the base of Coalbank Pass. You will need to hitch a ride back up to Coalbank if you are completing this extension.

Description

Upon leaving Coalbank Pass, most of the forested Pass Creek Trail is easily navigable on the way up to the base of Engineer Mountain. After about 2.5 miles of forest trail, you emerge into meadow with Engineer Mountain looming above you.

Once you reach an open meadow, make your way up the Pass Creek Trail, though heavy vegetation might obscure the view. You'll see the defined path going up towards Engineer Mountain, and you should take it. There is a trail running mainly north and south, that is the Engineer Mountain Trail that you'll cross when going up towards Engineer Mountain.

From the meadow, you'll continue your ascent of Engineer Mountain via an unofficial trail. The area sees enough traffic that your way will be easy to discern. Rock cairns also mark the path. Take the switchbacking route to a nice viewpoint that some know as the Eagle's Nest. If you decide to keep going, you'll be scrambling and maybe using your hands on the way up. All in all, from the meadow you'll gain roughly 1300 feet in about .75 of a mile.

Good luck keeping your speed up in this section, the technical terrain will slow even the most experienced runners. While there is a trail, once you are actually on Engineer Mountain there is a fair bit of exposure and scrambling. Even though you are scrambling, Engineer sees enough traffic that a trail is visible on the way up. If you don't feel comfortable going on, it's okay! Stop, turn around, have a seat, and enjoy the views. There isn't a bad seat in the house!

Once you are done enjoying the views or have reached the summit, go down carefully and take the same way down back to your car.

Flora & Fauna

The wildflowers are amazing in summer and fall once you get to the meadow. Be prepared to take lots of flower photos.

Contacts

Shared By:

aaron moore

Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 10 votes

#964

Overall
  4.6 from 10 votes
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Recommended Route Rankings

#185

in Colorado

#964

Overall
104 Views Last Month
8,450 Since Apr 9, 2016
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Photos

After leaving the forest you enter a meadow and depending on the time of year you may see a field of Paintbrush with Engineer dominating the view above.
Apr 9, 2016 near Rico, CO
Cairn at the summit
Jul 21, 2018 near Rico, CO
View looking at adjacent mountain range next to Engineer Mountain
Jul 12, 2020 near Rico, CO
This is the type of scrambling you'll be doing on the way up and more importantly on the way down.  The flat spot with a few folks hanging out is the Eagle's Nest, a great spot for those who want a break or a turnaround point before the scrambling.
Apr 9, 2016 near Rico, CO
Panoramic view. On the right you are looking south, down valley towards Durango. The road cut you see is the road leading up to Coalbank.
Apr 9, 2016 near Rico, CO
The scenery from the Pass Creek Trail is worth the effort!
Apr 15, 2016 near Silverton, CO

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